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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ben's Sports Take: A Tradition Unlike Any Other?

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Growing up in the state of Georgia, the allure of the Masters golf tournament isn't just a seasonal event—it's a year-round phenomenon.

While the rest of the country is reminded of Augusta National's majesty in early April, residents of the Peach State are rarely immune to the visages and accoutrement—particularly the clothing—that conjure up images of immaculate fairways and over-privileged frat boys.

But when you take a closer look at what is widely considered the most prestigious golf tournament in the world, is it really something that we as Georgians should hold in such high reverence?

For anyone who's never been to Augusta for the Masters tournament, it's as close as you'll ever get to time travel as the concessions are moderately priced and the lack of modern day technology (cell phones in particular) is downright serene.

However, there's another aspect of Augusta National that reminds us of how far the Masters hasn't come in regards to societal relations.

Women are still ineligible for membership and are rarely admitted to play the course. The club still employs a predominantly African-American working staff. And when you take a glance at the galleries surrounding each and every hole on the course, the number of non-white faces you see is often outnumbered by the number of fingers you have on either hand.

I still consider the Masters as one of the preeminent sporting events in the world and a feather in the cap of all Georgians, but it wasn't until an African-American colleague of mine—one who has been in the sports journalism business longer than I've been alive—mentioned how uncomfortable he feels when covering the tournament that I started to look a little closer at Augusta National's ideals.

While it won't ruin my overall admiration of the tournament, I'm curious to hear what other people think about the Masters' rich history and seeming unevolved present.

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